Maybe they’re sleeping more than usual, or eating less than they used to? If so, they could be in trouble! Thanks to medicine and other life-saving procedures, pets are living longer then they used to. But it also means they’re more susceptible to the same mental lapses as humans. The fact is: your older pet could have something called Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome — known as dementia or senility in humans. It’s a natural result of aging. But it can also be caused by high blood pressure. And according to MSNBC, one-third of 12-year-old dogs and two-thirds of 16-year-old dogs have significant cognitive impairment. And in cats, 80% of those over age 16 show signs of senility. But there is good news: with proper diet and medication, their mental function can be improved! So, how can you tell if your pet is affected? Spell out the word DISH:

  • D for Disorientation. That’s when they walk aimlessly, stare at the walls, get “stuck” in corners, or lose their balance and fall a lot.
  • I is for Interaction. Have their relations with people changed? For example, your always-friendly dog is hiding or ignoring you.
  • S is for Sleep habits. In other words, pets that used to snore through the night now prowl and yowl at all hours, and start sleeping when they used to be awake.
  • H - House-training goes out the window. Literally, your cat can’t seem to remember where the litter box is, or your dog can no longer figure out the doggie door. If that sounds like your pet, ask your vet to check their blood pressure and their cognitive function. Bottom line: The best thing you can do for your older pet is to be alert to changes in their behavior. Since they can’t tell you when something’s wrong, they’re counting on you to figure it out and get them the help they need.